Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you will eat with me.
I don’t like really hot food or drink. My feeling is what’s the point of having a plateful of delicious food, but it is too hot to eat. The same with coffee or any beverage. Maybe I’m impatient, but if I want to eat, I want to eat now, not when the food is cool enough to eat. So, I like food that is lukewarm, tepid, warmish. Mary smiles at this quirk, and it doesn’t matter to her or to God.
But it matters greatly when applied spiritually. To be tepid spiritually is not a good thing. In Revelation 3:16, God says, “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” He says this to the church in Laodicea, followers of Jesus. This community was well off, financially self-dependent, and had abandoned their faith. These words were not addressed to non-believers, but to believers who were complacent.
This is a common challenge we all face at some point in our spiritual lives. We are in a constant spiritual flux, moving from hot, very close with God to cold, distant from God. God doesn’t move, but our reactions to the world cause these variances.
The Laodiceans had gotten off-track, not cold, and distant, but just not in tune with Spirit. They had gotten prideful and comfortable; they thought they could provide for themselves. We can get like this at times. Our attitude of self-sufficiency can spill over into our spiritual lives, and we think we can handle everything ourselves. We become lukewarm toward God. It is not about salvation; it is about usefulness to God. If we ignore our walk with Christ, we become unproductive and useless spiritually, not unloved, just unable to focus on, hear, or follow God’s instructions and nudges.
When filled with Christ, we are not tepid. Our demeanor may be calm, but inside we are alive and vibrant. When Christ-filled we become a cold drink on a hot day to people around us. Spirit moving through us becomes refreshing, life-giving, and restoring. We become the hot tea on a sore throat, a comfort amidst the pain and suffering of the world.
Yet our false sense of security and independence can cause us to ignore the call of Christ. Between 1851 and 1854 William Holman Hunt painted an image of Jesus knocking on a door holding a light. The door, overgrown with weeds and vegetation, has no keyhole or doorknob. The name of the painting is The Light of the World and is a metaphor for Christ knocking on the door of our obstinately closed heart, with the only means of entry from within.
“Here I am,” says our Christ. “I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open the door so that we may commune together.” Christ knocks on all hearts, the non-believers, the lukewarm, and the fervent believers, and are given the same invitation, “Open the door and let me in. Let us visit.”
There are many reasons why we don’t open the door to Christ, not just complacency. At times, we are afraid to open the door when we hear the knock. We are afraid to be vulnerable to God. We have bought into the ideas that the world feeds us: We don’t need anyone else; we can do it all ourselves. We see our weaknesses, our shortcomings, and flaws and figure that God can find someone better able to fulfill His plans.
This is fear out of ignorance. We underestimate God’s love for us. The world teaches us to love others for what they can do for us, for what they have achieved, for their talents, for how physically attractive they are, for how much money they have. When we listen to the world, we feel unworthy of God’s love because we think God loves like the world. This is not the truth.
There are no conditions required for God’s love. None. Our fear is misguided when we think of God’s love in this manner. We can fail time and time again, no matter what our endeavor, and it matters not to God. It is a useless waste of emotional energy to fear that we are not worthy of God’s love. We must stop listening to the world. That is part of the meaning within Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Our own understanding is largely fear-based, world-based.
We may fear Christ revealing our wounds to us. We don’t want to face the dark, shameful, painful parts of who we are. But unlike the world, Christ does not judge us. He whispers, “This is why I died for you, to relieve you of the burden of what you don’t like about yourself. That has no power over you. You are whole, perfect, and loved just as you are. Stop living in fear; stop carrying burdens that are not yours. They are all mine; let me carry them.”
1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” God not only loves us, He is love. His perfect love banishes all fear.
Of course, our pride and ego can keep us from responding to the knock of Christ. We are called to be in this world, but not of it. Our ego is squarely of this world. It is rooted in the traditions, teachings, systems, and fears of this physical plane.
But the Bible urges us not to conform to the patterns of the world.
We cannot seek God and at the same time the priorities of the world. We cannot serve God and mammon. In Luke 9:23-25 Jesus says, “…If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”
We are here for a higher and more worthy purpose than what the world dictates to us. That purpose is always given to us by the one who knocks on our door. And Christ will continue to knock, giving us chance after chance, until we let him in. He is there to dine with us, share with us, be our friend, teacher, and guide. He wants to stay with us, but we don’t always comply. Sometimes we unconsciously usher Christ out the front door without realizing what we are doing. But he always knocks again.
And God is always working on our hearts, softening them so that we are more receptive to Christ’s knock. Acts 16:14 shares this story of people hearing Paul speak. “One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” This is how we all came to know Christ. God opened our heart to the message. This is how God uses us to help others come to faith in Christ. As we live and speak, people observe and listen. In the background God is doing His work in them, opening their hearts, guiding their attention, and expanding their belief. Being lukewarm is not useful to God.
A homeless person knocks on the door of the St. George and the Dragon Inn. The landlady answers. “Could you give a poor man something to eat?” asks the man.
“No!” yells the woman, slamming the door in his face.
A few minutes later, the hobo knocks again.
“Now what do you want?” the woman asks.
“Could I have a few words with George?”
As we open the door for Christ to come in, we allow communion with Christ. The takeaway of this communion is that we share Christ’s love with others, and God opens the hearts of those we connect with and love. We are vessels for the flow of Spirit, and the clearer we are the more useful we are to God. Complacency dulls our sheen.
So, it is my prayer that we heat up our lukewarm spiritual nature and get up off the couch when Christ knocks. And when we open the door, I pray that we are St. George and not the dragon. Our ego will try to tell us that it is an inconvenience to get up and answer the door. But in truth, all our soul’s desires and fulfillment await our response to that knock, that tap on the shoulder, that nudge. I pray that we ask Spirit to help us seek Christ, so that we are ready when we hear the knock. I pray that we ask for help in receiving God’s guidance and wisdom. I pray that we can be at peace, yet on fire inside with the love of Christ. It just takes a bit of focus and attention and willingness.